Sarah Carter headshot

Sarah Anne Carter

Executive Director of the Center for Design and Material Culture, Associate Professor
Design Studies Department; Textiles & Fashion Design and Interior Architecture Majors
Office 1235A
“…(No ideas / but in things) Invent! / Saxifrage is my flower that splits / the rock.”

–From “A Sort of a Song,” by William Carlos Williams


Prior to joining SoHE, I was the Curator and Director of Research at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I collaboratively curated many museum exhibitions and directed Chipstone’s Think Tank Program in support of progressive curatorial practice. I have been working in and around museums since I was thirteen years old and am very curious about the ways objects are used to convey information and tell stories.

My interdisciplinarity training in American Studies and Material Culture allows me to consider a wide range of sources as I investigate histories of children and childhood, museums, domestic interiors and the home, and American social and cultural life more broadly. I am currently working on two new projects, an article on the history of the Practice Cottage at the School of Human Ecology and a new book that will offer an affective or emotional history of the American museum, tentatively called “Museum Feelings.”

In addition to my recent book, Object Lessons: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Learned to Make Sense of the Material World (Oxford, 2018) and my coauthored book, Tangible Things: Making History Through Objects (Oxford, 2015), I am co-editor with Ivan Gaskell of the newly released thirty-essay collection, the Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture. My work has also appeared in Common-Place, Avidly (a channel of the LA Review of Books), and the Washington Post.

Download Dr.Carter's CV


PhD, American Studies, Harvard University
MA, History, Harvard University
MA, Early American Material Culture, University of Delaware and the Winterthur Museum
AB, History, Harvard University


American Studies Association
Society for the History of Children and Youth

Social Media

Twitter: @retracharas

Recent press

[Op-ed] Learning at home has an unexpected history, Washington Post, September 9, 2020
[Op-ed] Let’s apply the home science approach when the pandemic ends, Cap Times, September 3, 2020
The Goonies, museum rejects, Avidly, August 6, 2020
How face masks can help us understand the world, Oxford University Press Blog, July 18, 2020
In 2019, the rich ate beautiful, dead birds, Eater, December 3, 2019

The Material Culture or Childhood (SoHE 501)

History of Architecture and Interiors II (DS 422)

“Tangible Things: Making History Through Objects”, Free HarvardX/EdX course: &

“Mrs. M.—–‘s Cabinet” exhibition and collaborative research project, Milwaukee Art Museum, 2016-Present:

Apartment 4, collaboratively curated with artist Iris Haussler and the John Michael Kohler Art Center, 2018-2010:

Florence Eiseman: Designing Childhood for the American Century, Museum of Wisconsin Art, 2017:

Sarah Anne Carter, Object Lessons: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Learned to Make Sense of the Material World (Oxford University Press 2018).

Sarah Anne Carter, “Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet: Imagining a Feminist Period Room,” Feminism and Museums: Intervention, Disruption and Change, Vol. II (MuseumsEtc 2018) 144-161.

Laurel Ulrich, Ivan Gaskell, Sara Schechner, and Sarah Anne Carter, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects with (Oxford University Press 2015).

Sarah Anne Carter, “Picturing Rooms: Interior Photography 1870–1900,” History of Photography 34:3 (2010) 251-267.